Monday, July 27, 2015

Through Waters Deep

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Through Waters Deep
Sarah Sundin
Revell

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.

   Sarah Sundin is known for her fabulous World War II settings and relatable characters. This newest book throws something else into the mix- a good old-fashioned mystery.

   As always, the characters were well-rounded with interesting problems and personalities. Mary was a dear, and Jim was so sweet! That's not to say that their decisions were always perfect (some had me throwing my hands into the air in frustration) but they were both likable in spite of their imperfections, which is what made them such wonderful characters.

   I also really liked the mystery aspect of it, even Mary's mentions of Nancy Drew...I'm pretty sure I would have acted the same way as she did in that respect. The mentions of the war, Navy yard, and time period were pretty effortless and were far from distracting from the plot; rather, they added to it. It gave me a new perspective on the time period; I wasn't aware of a lot of the politics leading up to America's entrance into the War, and I felt like I really learned a lot. In fact, after reading this book, I'm thinking that I'm going to like the Waves of Freedom series even better than Wings of the Nightingale.

   I could have done with a bit less kissing there in the last couple of chapters, but it wasn't quite so prominent as in some of her other books, and while I can't say I *approve* of it, I will admit that her characters always have a good starting relationship that builds first before it ever gets to that. There was one particular twist that had me groaning, but it wrapped up better than I'd hoped and the character involved even grew on me after a while. I'm really excited for the next two books in this series!

Rating: 9

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A House Divided

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A House Divided
Robert Whitlow
Thomas Nelson

A father's mistakes nearly cost his children everything. Now his children must unite to take on the most important case of their respective careers.
   Every once in a while I like to pick a random novel to shake up my reading habits, and A House Divided was my choice this time.

   Part legal drama, part family drama, I liked it. of course, being no lawyer (and having no interest in being one whatsoever) a lot of the legal stuff went over my head (and all that paperwork that had to be done by the characters? ugh. Makes my head hurt just thinking about it)

   However, I did like how the book showed people growing and overcoming, and I found the characters to be realistic. While I wouldn't say I really enjoyed this book, because it was out of my interests, I thought it was well-written and I became fascinated with how everything was going to work out.

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Luther and Katharina

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Luther and Katharina
Jody Hedlund
Waterbrook

   When I first learned that this book was coming out, I was extremely excited. Y'see, I've always found the story of Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina Von Bora, fascinating, and while I'm not entirely positive what I think about writing novels about real people (simply because I don't think I'd like a novel written about me years after I'm dead) that didn't lessen my interest in this book. Then, of course, I saw the gorgeous cover and was even more determined to read it.

   The historical background in the novel was interesting. I especially liked the first few chapters when Luther and Katharina first met; their conversations (arguments?) were most entertaining! The author didn't skimp on the religious nature of the reformation, either, which I appreciated.

   The one thing that knocks the rating down on this one, though, is that it was too romance-y for me, and I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers because many of the characters could be quite crude with their accusations and innuendos. This is not uncommon for the time period of the book, I've noticed, as the sixteenth century was...ahem...rather bawdy and savage at times.

   Anyway, some of the content of this book was not to my taste, but I still enjoyed most of the book, and I'm sure anyone who has wondered how Martin Luther went from calling Katharina the "hissing katzen" to "Kate, my rib" will want to pick this one up.

Rating: 6

I received an ARC copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Curiosity Keeper

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The Curiosity Keeper
Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

   If my previous experiences reading Sarah E. Ladd's books hadn't encouraged me to try this novel, the title alone would have. The Curiosity Keeper-- sounds intriguing and Dickens-ish, doesn't it?

   Both sweet and mysterious, if a bit slow-moving, I very much enjoyed this novel. I do admit it took me a few good chapters for it to really suck me in, but I really grew to enjoy the characters, especially the secondary ones. My favorite was Jonathon's father- but then again, given my taste in favorite characters, that's not surprising.

   I think what I liked most about this book was its sense of place. While the main characters were perfectly adequate to tell the story, I personally loved the setting of the curiosity shop, as well as the Gilchrist home. It gave the book a very different "feel" than most regencies. As I mentioned before, it reminded me of a Dickens BBC adaptation. And I could certainly appreciate the old, antique, and "odd" curiosities several of the characters were enamored with. (another reason for my affinity for the elder Mr. Gilchrist, perhaps?)

   Though this novel definitely moved at a slower pace than I generally prefer, I have no qualms wholeheartedly recommending it to Regency lovers. Overall, this was a book I was pleased to find available for review, and I'm already looking forward to the next book in this series.

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In Good Company

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In Good Company
Jen Turano
Bethany House

After spending her childhood in an orphanage, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her playfulness and enthusiasm tend to bring about situations that have employers looking askance at her methods. After her most recent dismissal, Millie is forced to return yet again to an employment agency.

Everett Mulberry has suddenly and quite unexpectedly found himself responsible for three children he’s never met. Attempting fatherhood while also pacifying the less-than-thrilled socialite he intends to marry is made even more complicated when the children scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he’s desperate for competent childcare.

At wit’s end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance–with each other. Everett is wary of Millie’s penchant for disaster, and she’s not entirely keen on another snobby, grumpy employer, but they’re both out of options. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges and tries to stay one step ahead of them, Everett is more focused on achieving the coveted status of society’s upper echelons. As he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the children’s parents’ death, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?

   I enjoyed After a Fashion a lot, so I was really looking forward to In Good Company. While this novel did have its good points, overall it didn't quite impress me.

   Part of the reason I might not have enjoyed this one so much are because I have a couple historical fiction pet peeves- most notably, the use of first names among characters. I can understand Everett and Millie using first names. Sure, it isn't quite appropriate considering their stations, but to the modern reader titles can seem very formal and aloof between hero and heroine. But literally, nearly everyone was using first names. I mean, five minutes after they'd met, Everett's mother was telling Millie to call her Dorothy. Even today I wouldn't do that, and I highly doubt a woman in Mrs. Mulberry's position would ask her to do so! Again, this probably won't bother most people...but it does make me wince.

   Then again, I wouldn't say these books are strictly accurate to history anyway. I knew that coming in to them, so I don't expect it. But the first names thing is a personal annoyance of mine, and at times the plot of In Good Company was a little contrived and inconsistent.

   However, I did enjoy the book. I didn't like it as much as After a Fashion, but it had some funny bits and the characters were interesting. Personally, I'm really looking forward to the last book, Playing the Part. Lucetta is one of my favorite characters, and the synopsis sounds intriguing!

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 
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